Public health officials are challenging Northland Regional Council's decision not to publicly notify large discharges of toxic air by large industrial outlets that have adverse health and environment impacts.

Northland District Health Board's public and population health unit has filed a notice of appeal in the Environment Court, opposing certain parts of the proposed Regional Plan dealing with air quality and water protection.

The decision to make existing fuel burning for energy generation a restricted discretionary activity, Northland DHB said, would significantly relax consenting process for large industrial sources such as the New Zealand Refinery, Juken New Zealand, and Portland Cement.

"This is important because the larger the facility, the larger the discharges to air and the higher the potential impact on the environment and public health.


"The exclusion of public notification will preclude our ability to inform the consent processes with a resulting inability to support public health protection," NDHB said in its appeal.

Northland DHB is also opposed to the classification of sawmilling, premises used for fumigation for quarantine purposes, and quarrying operations being allowed as permitted activities.

They contained neurotoxin methyl bromide used in fumigation, carcinogenic from quarrying and wood dust from saw milling that required a higher level of regulatory control, Northland DHB said.

"Northland public health is also aware that methyl bromide is being phased out and is concerned that the substance that will replace it is likely to be similarly toxic in nature and present similar potential off-site effects."

On the discharge of dust near unsealed roads, it said the issue was more serious in Northland because the region had a relatively high Māori population that was disproportionately impacted by air pollution.

Northland DHB is seeking certain amendments to the plan to better protect sources of drinking water.

As an example, it said the Regional Plan stated a stormwater discharge might not render fresh water unsuitable for consumption by farm animals, but potential effects regarding contact by people was not considered.

Northland DHB said although water take was a permitted activity, it could adversely affect water use during low-flow seasons such as drought which Northland suffered in recent years.


The Regional Plan stipulates taking and use of water, and in the case of geothermal water any associated heat and energy, from a river, lake or aquifer is a permitted activity with certain conditions.

A date has yet to be set to hear the appeal.